Cocking a snook at the ongoing deep recession in the air travel industry, Madurai-based Paramount Airways, India's only 'all business class' airline, plans to pump $1.3-billion in fleet expansion over the next three to five years.
Launching its eastern India operations, managing director M Thiagarajan said in Kolkata on Monday that the carrier would add 15 short-haul, regional jets and 10 medium haul wide-bodied aircraft to go pan-India by 2010 and introduce international flights by 2011.
Thiagarajan said a technical committee was evaluating both Boeing and Airbus aircraft for its slated international operations. ''To begin with, we will operate flights to South-East Asia and Gulf region.
Then, the service will be extended to Europe and the US. We are closely evaluating A330s and A350s from Airbus, as well as the 777s and 787s from Boeing. We should be able to arrive at a decision and sign the deal by June or July,'' he said.
With each wide-bodied aircraft carrying a price-tag of $80-90 million, Paramount Airways will have to shell out $800-900 million for building its international fleet. In addition, it plans to acquire 15 more Embraer 170/190 series jets for domestic operations. This fleet expansion should cost around $400 million.
''We have five Embraer aircraft in our fleet now. The sixth aircraft will arrive next month, followed by four others by this year-end. The rest will be delivered next year,'' Thiagarajan said.
Paramount on Monday began its eastern operations by introducing a daily flight between Chennai and the Northeast via Kolkata, catering to business travellers and those from south India travelling for healthcare.
Launching the flight on the Chennai-Kolkata-Guwahati-Agartala-Kolkata-Chennai sector after achieving success in the southern region, Thiagarajan told reporters that the airline would make an operational hub in Kolkata to expand further in this region.
Welcoming the airline in Kolkata, West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee expressed hope that this would be extremely beneficial for growth of business and tourism in eastern India. Assuring full state cooperation, Bhattacharjee asked the airline to explore the possibility of operations to Coochbehar in North Bengal from Kolkata.
In reply, Thiagarajan promised to explore the possibility. "We want to connect all major national destinations by the end of this year, while evaluating connecting international destinations within two years' time," he said.